Greetings, all. Ambush Bug here with another AICN HORROR: ZOMBIES & SHARKS column. But before we get to the reviews, here’s a horror news tidbit to chew on.
First, we have THE VOID; a film from the writer/director team of Steven Kostanski & Jeremy Gillespie, the folks behind MANBORG and FATHER’S DAY (two films that are all kinds of awesome). The filmmakers are taking the IndieGoGo route to fund not the film itself, but the elaborate practical effects for this new feature, and you can help these talented filmmakers reach their goal by clicking here!
One of the more recent updates is that Kostanski and Gillespie have added the option to give away the poster you see over there on the left out to donators, and it’s a pretty freaking awesome one at that. So check out the proof of concept trailer below, and see if it’s worthy of your hard earned money. I’ve never been disappointed by the work of these gentlemen in the past, and this new project looks pretty amazing. See for yourself!
There’s a new HALLOWEEN documentary in the works to be distributed in October called HORROR ICON: INSIDE MICHAEL MYERS’ MASK WITH TONY MORAN. It’s directed by David Langill and Jordan Pacheco and takes a look at the man behind the mask in the final scenes of John Carpenter’s classic slasher flick. The film features special appearances by Ernie Hudson (GHOSTBUSTERS), Dee Wallace (E.T. THE EXTRA-TERRESTRIAL), Andrew Bryniarski (THE TEXAS CHAIN SAW MASSACRE), Debbie Rochon (Tromeo and Juliet), Jonathan Tiersten (SLEEPAWAY CAMP), John Dugan (THE TEXAS CHAIN SAW MASSACRE), Timothy Patrick Quill (ARMY OF DARKNESS), Vernon Wells (MAD MAX 2: THE ROAD WARRIOR) and more.
So look for that this fall and you can find out more info on the film here.
On with the horror reviews!
(Click title to go directly to the feature)
Retro-review: HOUSE ON HAUNTED HILL (1959)
Retro-review: BLACULA (1972)
Retro-review: EXTERMINATORS OF THE YEAR 3000 (1983)
THE BURNING DEAD (2015)
BLOOD CAR (2007)
Advance Review: AMERICAN BACKWOODS: SLEW HAMPSHIRE (2013)
And finally…Mike Brune’s THE ADVENTURE!
Retro-review: New on BluRay as part of THE VINCENT PRICE COLLECTION II from Shout Factory
HOUSE ON HAUNTED HILL (1959)Directed by William Castle
Written by Robb White
Starring Vincent Price, Carol Ohmart, Richard Long, Alan Marshal, Carolyn Craig, Elisha Cook Jr., Julie Mitchum, Leona Anderson, Howard Hoffman, & Skeleton as Himself!
Retro-reviewed by Ambush Bug
Though THE TINGLER has been and always will be my favorite Vincent Price/William Castle collaboration, HOUSE ON HAUNTED HILL is by far the scariest. While many old films fail to scintillate in this modern age of zombies and found footage, HOUSE ON HAUNTED HILL retains the scares through the millennia.
Vincent Price plays millionaire Frederick Loren, the owner of a house rumored to be haunted by spirits and spooks. He invites his wife Annabelle (Carol Ohmart) and five guests in his employ for a party challenge of sorts: stay the night in the house and receive ten THOUSAND dollars (I held my finger to my lip and laughed like Dr. Evil after writing that, you just can’t see me doing it)! Of course, Fredrick is not going to make it easy on his guests--it wouldn’t be a challenge--and almost immediately, strange occurrences begin to happen. Bizarre sounds echo through the darkened corridors, pools of acid bubble just one misstep away, severed heads appear and disappear, and who the hell is that crazy old stiff lady floating through the house? Soon everyone is paranoid and terrified and wanting to leave, but with the doors locked, escape is not an option. All they can do is survive the night as best they can.
Price is absolutely fantastic here and plays a role he seems to enjoy delectably as Frederick. Some of the most entertaining scenes are when Frederick and his wife Annabelle trade barbs back and forth with one another. Much like Price’s wordplay with his cheating wife in THE TINGLER (which was also written by Robb White), the two characters hate each other to the core, but the barbed and playful back and forthings are some of the sharpest lines in the film. Still, unlike the cuckolded husband Price played in THE TINGLER, Price’s Frederick is fully in charge here and while THE TINGLER kind of peaks and ends weirdly, HOUSE ON HAUNTED HILL has a much more satisfying end to it all.
But what really makes HOUSE ON HAUNTED HILL effective are the scares. The scene with the floating old lady gets me every damn time. I swear, I have nightmares with that old lady’s face on it. And while the skeleton on strings is less scary, there are still some gruesome severed heads and hanged people that do nothing but intensify the thrills. One criticism, though: lead damsel Carolyn Craig has a scream that is like nails on a chalkboard for me. For some reason I couldn’t stand it every time she opened her mouth, and she lets loose a yodel almost every five minutes in this film.
Still, annoying screams aside, HOUSE ON HAUNTED HILL is fun from start to finish. From the devilish performance by Price to the effects that are terrifying to this day (damn, that old lady…I tell you). The patented Castle showmanship for this film included a glow in the dark skeleton which floated over the audience during key scenes. It doesn’t top the Tingler seat vibrations, but still an effective stunt. I saved HOUSE ON HAUNTED HILL towards the end of this Price Collection, mainly because it is such a fun one. It’s a film that delivers a-plenty with wickedly black humor and terrors of the most chilling kind.
Retro-review: New this week on a BluRay Double Feature from The Shout Factory!
BLACULA (1972)Directed by William Crain
Written by Joan Torres (screenplay), Raymond Koenig (screenplay)
Starring William Marshall, Vonetta McGee, Denise Nicholas, Thalmus Rasulala, Gordon Pinsent, Charles Macaulay, Emily Yancy, Lance Taylor Sr., Ted Harris, Rick Metzler, Ji-Tu Cumbuka, Logan Field, Ketty Lester, Elisha Cook Jr.
Retro-reviewed by Ambush Bug
In many ways, BLACULA is just another blaxploitation film geared toward a specific demographic (African Americans) and made by white folks. Director William Crain himself is an African American, and the film has a genuineness that isn’t conveyed in a lot of the typical Blaxsploitation films of the era. Also, BLACULA is actually pretty damn scary and though the name might cause a titter or two, this horror film is no joke.
When King Mamuwalde (William Marshall) and his wife Luva visit Count Dracula’s castle in the late 1800s to discuss the stoppage of the slave trade, the evil Count betrays Mamuwalde, takes his wife, and locks the king in a coffin with a curse to thirst for blood (dubbing him Blacula). Shoot ahead to the happenin’ year of 1972, and a homosexual couple buy out the remnants left in Dracula’s castle to resell at a steeper price. Unbeknownst to them, Blacula is alive and well in one of the coffins. Awakening in America, Blacula encounters Tina, who is the spitting image of his lost wife Luva (because they are both played by Vonetta McGee). Blacula will stop at nothing to have Tina as his own, but paranormal investigator Dr. Gordon Thomas (Thalmus Rasulala) is out to play a modern day Van Helsing.
OK. First and foremost, the afros of BLACULA are out of control! To a man as follicularly challenged as I am, seeing those gigantic fros whisp in the wind was pretty amazing, and this film seems to fully embrace the LA black experience of the time. Much of the fun is seeing The Hues Corporation performing song after song in the club Blacula meets Tina in. The dance moves, the clothes, and the fros are indicative of the time and proud of it. I’m not making fun of the fros as much as I am in awe at the sheer power and number of fros that appear in this film. It’s pretty amazing.
And while there’s a bit of camp taking place with people commenting on Blacula’s cape a lot, much of this film is straight up and downright effective horror. There are scenes such as when one of Blacula’s victims awakens in a morgue and runs in slo mo towards the camera. This was scary as shit. There’s an equally terrifying scene in a graveyard with a vamp who has been buried alive that almost sent my underwear to the cleaners a bit early. Director William Crain really knows how to craft an effective scare, as he proves over and again.
William Marshall makes the movie. There’s a dignified manner with which he carries himself. It’s never campy, never played for laughs. He is the coolest in the room and doesn’t really care if he is or not. The Great White Shark-esque determination he has to regain his bride after years of captivity is is unshakable, and this movie is what it is because of Marshall’s conviction from start to finish. Sure the fros are bigger than the budget and some of the actors need quite a bit of lessons, but Marshall’s performance, some rock solid scares, and a slice of culture that cannot be denied makes BLACULA a must for all lovers of horror.
Next week, we will return with the other half of this double feature with SCREAM, BLACULA, SCREAM!
New this week on BluRay from The Shout Factory!
EXTERMINATORS OF THE YEAR 3000 (1983)aka DEATH WARRIORS, EXTERMINATORS IN THE YEAR 3000, THE EXECUTOR
Directed by Giuliano Carnimeo (as Jules Harrison)
Written by Elisa Briganti, Dardano Sacchetti, José Truchado
Starring Robert Iannucci, Alicia Moro, Luciano Pigozzi, Eduardo Fajardo, Fernando Bilbao, Beryl Cunningham, Luca Venantini, Anna Orso, Venantino Venantini
Retro-reviewed by Ambush Bug
After MAD MAX and THE ROAD WARRIOR, all it took was a barren desert setting, some souped up post-apocalyptic cars, and some dirty punk clothes and it seemed everyone was making a movie set in a world not that far into the future.
EXTERMINATORS OF THE YEAR 3000 was one of those movies, and much more of a direct ripoff of ROAD WARRIOR than most of its era. Water has become a precious commodity and many will murder to get it. While one man makes his lonely trek across the post-nuclear war-scarred landscape, others both good and evil try to find that precious resource. When a little boy turns out to be the sole survivor of a water collection run, he stumbles across the loner and recruits him to battle for the side of good versus motorcycle riding mutants who will kill in a heartbeat to survive and will stop at nothing until the year 3000 is completely and utterly exterminated!
What makes EXTERMINATORS OF THE YEAR 3000 ridiculous is not just that mouthful of a title, but also that it takes itself in complete seriousness. The film makes no bones about it that it is a beat for beat rehash of ROAD WARRIOR, right down to the design of the vehicles and bald-headed bad guy in leather and makeup. Even the lead (Robert Iannucci) acts like Mel Gibson, although he looks more like a reject from the MEGAFORCE movie and wears gear out of some kind of Duran Duran video.
Italian made, EXTERMINATORS OF THE YEAR 3000 has that weird mix of dubbing where some characters speak English while others speak Italian with no consistency whatsoever. The film actually feels very anime influenced as well with its young kid as the narrator (something also from ROAD WARRIOR, as the Feral Kid was the narrator in that one), especially with his choice of a gerbil as a pet. Those who like ROAD WARRIOR and post-apocalyptic anime might find this low fi rehash a little more digestible than most.
EXTERMINATORS OF THE YEAR 3000 has tons of car chases in the desert a la George Miller’s film, but none of them pack the impact that film does. And while it’s unfair to completely compare one film to another, when the film does such a skilled job of blatantly ripping off the aforementioned film, then I think it’s ok to compare the two. EXTERMINATORS OF THE YEAR 3000 is for hardcore sci fi folks and completists in the genre who absolutely have to see everything. Still, if you’re looking for sci fi post-apocalyptic road movies, you’d be better off if you just checked out ROAD WARRIOR again.
New this week on DVD and On Demand from Midnight Releasing!
PSYCHOTIC (2012)Directed by Johnny Johnson
Written by Johnny Johnson
Starring Jenna Verdicchio, Steve Hope Wynne, Kristina Dargelyte, Rosie Cochrane, David Aldridge, Adam Lewis, Mark Carlisle, Dan Godward, Tzvet Lazar, Jodyanne Richardson, Rodolfo Coloma, David Alexander,
Find out more about this film here and on Facebook here!
Reviewed by Ambush Bug
The asylum gone apeshit is a tried and true horror pastiche that seems to never get old. Having worked in a lockdown mental facility before in my travels as a clinical therapist, I’ve experienced lockdown units alluded to in PSYCHOTIC and while many of the clichés one often associates with asylum films, particularly SILENCE OF THE LAMBS, have existed in the past, it’s frustrating to see them show up in modern interpretations in film. While I’m sure treatment of this kind and situations such as this exist from time to time, seeing the clichés play out in PSYCHOTIC didn’t really impress me all that much.
When I say clichés I mean it, as PSYCHOTIC starts out on a pretty unbelievable note. All of the patients at a lockdown psychiatric facility have been moved to a new location save for three (which of course are the most unhinged, because that’s a good idea). A newbie, starry-eyed doctor has high hopes to reach her patients in their final hours at the asylum, while thug guards do their usual thing, beating up the inmates and overpowering them. When the lights go out and the inmates escape, the tides are turned. But when a mysterious behavior modification device overheats and explodes in one of the more sadistic guards’ faces, things go from bad to worse. Soon the doctor is running for her life through the halls from madmen and rabid guards alike. And somehow, for some reason, there’s a little girl in the lockdown psych facility.
Again, I’m sure this type of clichéd treatment of patients exist around the world. Sadly, mental facilities not only house the mentally unstable, but often folks who are unstable themselves gravitate towards these facilities for employment. Incidents of abuse and unethical testing exist, but less so today than any other time. So when I see the clichéd stuff play out on screen, it bothers me because this really isn’t representational of the way it is and it feels like the only research that went into this film is to watch a triple feature of ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOOS NEST, HELLBOUND: HELLRAISER II, and SILENCE OF THE LAMBS. Because the idea that any hospital would save their worst clients for last and the guards would so blatantly abuse the patients without fear of recourse is so unbelievable, I found it very difficult to get past the opening moments of this film.
Still, I guess in terms of loonies running amok in an asylum, this one is ok. It attempts at doing some profound things, and filmmaker Johnny Johnson seems bound and determined to make this as tension-filled as possible and even achieved it from time to time. I’m not sure why the supernatural element of the experimental psych treatment gas overload was used, as it really doesn’t seem to have a place in the non-supernatural world of the asylum, but still it adds more loonies to run around, so I guess it served its purpose.
PSYCHOTIC’s biggest problem is that it just isn’t original enough to be memorable. With clichéd beliefs about the mentally ill only reflected shallowly in this film, even the moments of tension feel as if they were lifted from other better films. If you’re interested in a decent asylum film, check out ASYLUM BLACKOUT (reviewed here) as it offered up a much more realistic and effective look at a similar premise.
New this week on digital and VOD and April 7th on DVD from Uncork’d Entertainment!
THE BURNING DEAD (2015)aka VOLCANO ZOMBIES
Directed by Rene Perez
Written by Jason Ancona, Jeff Miller
Starring Danny Trejo, Thomas Downey, Moniqua Plante, Nicole Cummins, Kevin Norman, Robert F. Lyons, Kyle T. Heffner, Julia Lehman, Tom Nagel, Jenny Lin, Adam Gregor, Robert Amstler, Matthew W. Tate, Morgan Lester
Find out more about this film here and on Facebook here
Reviewed by Ambush Bug
Man, Danny Trejo needs a new agent. He is so much better than this film and it pains me to see him in it. But not even Machete himself can save this turd from sinking to the bottom of the barrel.
THE BURNING DEAD is another mish-mash film trying to cash in on the one-in-a-million success of SHARKNADO by mixing a natural disaster with a movie monster. While the concept of SHARKNADO is inane, there is still some kind of logic involved, as tornadoes actually do carry debris in its funnel, so you can sort of believe some sharks could get swept up into said funnel and then be transported inland where Ian Ziering can fight them with a chainsaw.
In THE BURNING DEAD, even the most minute amount of logic is tossed out the window as it tries to lead us to believe that frontiersmen were swept away by lava from a nearby volcano, only to be sucked back into the volcano and preserved until the volcano could erupt again two hundred years later. Now, the film doesn’t go so far as to explain why the zombies are there in the first place, but I’m ok with that as Romero never really did either. Still, we are to believe that these zombies somehow do not get burned to little bitty cinders and also have gained the inexplicable ability to drool lava onto their victims. Now, I’m all for fantastical stuff, but this film is steeped in scientists investigating the volcano and aside from some moronic campfire tale Trejo is telling three young Native Americans, there really isn’t any explanation as to why these zombies do what they do. They are just unburnable, lava-barfing zombies.
You know, I’d almost be ok with unburnable, lava-barfing zombies if the story and cast were ok. But I’ve heard better line delivery at 4 am at a bar than the horrible acting on display in this film. There’s some kind of story involving an estranged family trying to rescue their reclusive grandfather in the middle of the woods that just feels like filler in between lava zombie attacks because it is. Throw in a know-it-all comic book collector as an attempt to get nerd cred, a limping deputy who dies immediately after coming to the rescue, and an Asian who takes nude selfies on a mountain and you’ve got some of the worst acting and writing you’ll see this side of a Saturday night SyFy movie.
At least the SHARKNADO films have stupid cameos by z-listers to scoff at. THE BURNING DEAD doesn’t even have that. SHARKNADO is SHARKSPEARE (I can’t believe I just wrote that) compared to this simmering piece of poo. Bad movie. You’re a bad, bad movie, THE BURNING DEAD.
New this week on Blu-ray & Digital HD from Cinedigm!
INNOCENCE (2014)Directed by Hilary Brougher
Written by Hilary Brougher & Tristine Skyler (screenplay), Jane Mendelsohn (novel)
Starring Sophie Curtis, Kelly Reilly, Graham Phillips, Linus Roache, Sarah Sutherland, Stephanie March, Perrey Reeves, Liya Kebede, Sarita Choudhury, Annie Q., Mikal Evans, Daniel Zovatto, Evelina Turen, Rachel Heller, Noelle Beck
Find out more about this film here and on Facebook here
Reviewed by Ambush Bug
After sitting through last week’s saccharinated thriller THE INTRUDERS with Disney gal Miranda Cosgrove (reviewed here), I was expecting more of the same from INNOCENCE, another “thriller” geared toward the teenie boppers of the world, and while I can appreciate that, I also remember being that age and knew I wouldn’t have been scared a bit by anything in THE INTRUDERS. That said, INNOCENCE surprised me.
While the story of virgin blood being the end all be all in ageless beauty is something dealt with in many a movie (it was last seen here on AICN HORROR in my review of ONCE BITTEN!), there’s still room on the old virgin sacrificial alter for more films of this sort, I guess. Sophie Curtis plays Beckett, the new girl at a prep school arriving with much excitement from the faculty. Her father Miles (BATMAN RETURNS Bat-Dad Linus Roache) seems to be the talk of the town as well, as all of the ladies of the faculty fawn all over him upon his arrival to pick up Beckett from school. It’s not long before Miles is sleeping with sultry school (HELLO!) Nurse Pamela (Kelly Reilly from SHERLOCK HOLMES and the underappreciated gem EDEN LAKE) and Beckett begins a rebellious fling with a skater kid at the school named Tobey (Graham Phillips). Things are all groovy until Beckett begins to feel manipulated by the women at the school. Pamela has an especially weird interest in her, which she thinly covers with concern. But something weird is happening at the school as Beckett begins to have nightmares, sees visions of ghost children, and witnesses the suicide of one of her classmates. Soon everything in Beckett’s life is controlled by Pamela and her Book Club, and if their insidious plan is to come to fruition, Beckett’s blood must be spilled.
While a lot of the same teeny bopper boy meets girl/girls pal around and giggle stuff plays out in INNOCENCE, this film definitely has a sharper edge than the aforementioned THE INTRUDERS. The film feels much more dangerous, and while I never thought Cosgrove was going to have one hair on her perfectly coiffed Mouseketeer head hurt, there was a real sense of danger in INNOCENCE that cannot be denied. Filmed much more in the style of a KIDS than a GOOSEBUMPS episode, there is an impressive amount of sophisticated scenes of teenage rebellion and confusion at play in this film. Credit where credit is due, filmmaker Hilary Brougher really makes the scenes leading up to the big supernatural reveal rather dense and alluring in theme and imagery. I wasn’t bored one tick with the relational stuff Beckett goes through because of the nice balance between teen angst and palpable danger coming from the adults in the film, especially Kelly Reilly, who is both gorgeous and dangerous here (she’s one Bond film away from stardom, if you ask me).
Don’t get me wrong. INNOCNCE still is a PG-13 “horror” film for teenagers. But this one has more bite to it than many of the theatrical releases geared towards that demographic. While my jaded horror-loving adult side was still pining for more, at least INNOCENCE wasn’t a film that insulted my inner teenie bopper.
New this week in limited theaters and On Demand from Uncork’d Entertainment and from Raven Banner!
AVENGED (2013)aka SAVAGED
Directed by Michael S. Ojeda
Written by Michael S. Ojeda
Starring Amanda Adrienne, Tom Ardavany, Ronnie Gene Blevins, Brionne Davis, Ed Fletcher, Jason Gurvitz, Dan Kiefer, Daniel Knight, John Charles Meyer, Kyle Morris, Rodney Rowland
Find out more about this film here and on Facebook here
Reviewed by Ambush Bug
The classic revenge tale is taken down the warpath as a group of rednecks who like hunting and killing Native Americans fuck with the wrong squaw and end up on the buried end of the totem pole in AVENGED, formerly known as and reviewed on AICN HORROR as SAVAGED.
Though most films of this sort go too far when it comes to the horrors of rape and murder such as LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT, I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE, and I FART IN YOUR NOSE (I made that last one up), AVENGED shows the despicable scene and moves on pretty quickly to the revenge portion, making the film a bit more digestible than most films of its kind. Amanda Adrienne plays Zoe, a deaf white girl who happens across a hunting party that run down and kills a Native American man. Not wanting to leave a witness, the group kidnaps the girl, rapes her in a cabin, and then buries her in the desert. But soon, Zoe rises from the grave possessed by a vengeful Native American spirit bent on taking out the killers one by one in gruesome, albeit clichéd, Native American manners.
Adrienne is fantastic as Zoe here, conveying the pain and anger of not only her own victimization but the persecution of an entire oppressed race. When she fights back against the hunters, the fire is clear in her eyes and the actress proves to be more than formidable in the spunk and fighting department. The gruesome manner in which the killers are relieved of their lives is noteworthy as guts are pulled out, arrows are slung and thwacked into multiple orifices, and scalps are…well, scalped. This may be cliché, but the vengeance is done in such a brutal and deserving manner (since all of the killers are pretty skeezy), I didn’t mind it very much, but if one was Native American one might take a bit of offence to it. Then again, this anti-hero is fighting back against centuries of oppression and victimization, so I doubt they would mind too much.
The only criticism I have for AVENGED is that it does follow the revenge film path a bit too closely. Hell, if Zoe were dressed in black leather, this would be an effective CROW sequel. With a cast of skuzzy rapist/murderers on the chopping block, this film is easy to predict. But though it’s a well-tread path taken by everyone from Charles Bronson to Brandon Lee, the brutal effects and solid performances make AVENGED a revenge flick worth checking out.
New this week on DVD and iTunes here!
BLOOD CAR (2007)Directed by Alex Orr
Written by Hugh Braselton (story), Alex Orr & Adam Pinney (screenplay & story)
Starring Mike Brune, Anna Chlumsky, Katie Rowlett, Matt Hutchinson, Marla Malcolm, Mr. Malt, Matthew Stanton, Bill Szymanski, Hawmi Guillebeaux, Vince Canlas
Find out more about this film here
Reviewed by Ambush Bug
This film is set in the future. Like two weeks in the future, when gas prices are over $30.00 a gallon and basically only the very rich can afford to drive around in cars. While BLOOD CAR is as offbeat and silly as they come, this concept sadly is probably not too far from the truth.
The story focuses on Archie (Mike Brune), a vegan Kindergarten teacher who is working on a car engine that runs on wheatgrass. Archie tools with the engine in his small apartment to no avail, buying gallons and gallons of wheatgrass from the cute nerdy girl at the wheatgrass stand (VEEP’s Anna Chlumsky), but it isn’t until he accidentally cuts himself and bleeds into the engine that he realizes that blood can be used as fuel with his new engine. This sends Archie down a slippery slope, as he must continue to keep his car fueled if he is to continue getting laid by the slutty meat girl (Katie Rowlett) whose booth happens to be across the street from the wheatgrass stand. Soon the government gets wind of the engine and is after Archie for its secrets.
This is not a film for the serious who check their funny bones at the door when they watch a film or had theirs damaged long ago and deem it uncool to laugh at anything. If you’re that type of person, you’ll find BLOOD CAR inane, ridiculous, and often times uber-offensive. Personally, I love stuff like this. The fact that a vegan is forced to kill people in order for his newly discovered engine to function is a pretty hilarious look at the hypocritical times we live in. Seeing Archie go about his everyday carbon footprint-aware lifestyle and ride his bike back and forth to work to save the planet is something a lot of folks do, but in this case, it’s taken to an extreme that is pretty accurate as most who lead that lifestyle break their own rules or turn a blind eye when it is beneficial. Seeing Archie give up almost all of his core beliefs for the chance of getting some pussy makes for a pretty fun descent into madness story, highlighted with scenes of Archie being forced to kill little animals and people he deems worthy to be killed highlights the ultimate in his hypocrisy. One scene in particular, where Archie tries unsuccessfully to kill a little dog with a BB gun, was so horrifically wrong but hilariously right in terms of tickling that morbidly black funny bone only some of us (most of which read this column) will be able to possess. The final scene in the film is another one that comes to mind that would outrage some, but for me, it just put the cherry on top of the entire film which was bathed in wrongness from the very beginning.
Acting-wise, this is a pretty solid film as all involved are obviously trained in the subtler arts of comedy and aren’t afraid to push the limits. Looking like a finely shaven Weird Al Yankovic, Mike Brune plays his Archie as overly sincere and highly conflicted at the terrible acts he must do to get his car running. And it’s a treat to see Anna Chlumsky in a role that is equally hilarious as the nerdy wheatgrass girl who desperately wants to bone the sheepish Archie. Add some fun moments where Archie must seek out his victims and the dimwitted attempts by the feds to seize the car and the technology and you have a film that is full of capable comedians with perfectly crass comic timing.
Like Drew Bolduc (who did THE TAINT and SCIENCE TEAM) and the guy that made up Astron-6 (who did FATHER’S DAY and MANBORG), the production company behind BLOOD CAR ( Fake Wood Wallpaper Films) offer up the finest in madcap and over the top horror. Again, there will be those who absolutely hate this film for the depths of horror it plunges to in the name of shock comedy, but I applaud it and found myself uncontrollably laughing at quite a few of the scenes in this film. BLOOD CAR is the type of satire that’s a lot truer than many will be able to admit, which will either make or break the film depending on how much you might be able to laugh at yourself and what you believe in.
Advance Review: Coming soon on DVD in May from Midnight Releasing!
AMERICAN BACKWOODS: SLEW HAMPSHIRE (2013)aka SLEW HAMPSHIRE
Directed by Flood Reed
Written by Flood Reed
Starring Dayo Okeniyi, Shawn Thomas, Tyler Rice, Jeremy Isabella, Flood Reed, Claire Dodin, Matt Hish, Mike Apple, Brian Allen, John Joyce, Michael Todd Schneider, Paul J Hennigan, Gaya Malakian, Stephen O'Neil Martin, Chip Kratzinger, Kevin Planeta, Eric Boring, Keven Scotti, Chuck Galle, Billy Houldcroft, Deek McDeekula
Find out more about this film here and on Facebook here
Reviewed by Ambush Bug
Mixing ingredients is always a risky thing. There are those who just toss in a scene here and a theme there and a swipe here and an homage there and it all just doesn’t end up tasting right. Then there are those who are the filmmaking equivalent of a master chef and able to blend these elements with finesse and style. With tons and tons of low fi horror being chucked out on a weekly basis these days, everything seems to be derived from something that has come before. So it’s this delivery that makes the strong stand taller than the weak, and AMERICAN BACKWOODS: SLEW HAMPSHIRE is one of the strong ones.
A group of four horny college-bound kids pile into a truck and head out of their northeastern town to a strip club that is rumored to be the most awesome of the awesome in places where women fake interest in men for money. This group has a history together. One of them, Bro (played by HUNGER GAMES' Dayo Okeniyi), was injured when the four were horsing around on their snowmobiles. But while some of the guys are heading off to college and bettering themselves, others remain back in their small town of origin. Taking off for college is one of those crossroads moments in a young person’s life, and the group is strained because the band feels like it’s breaking up for good. Still, they’ve decided to head out on one last big fling following the white whale that is this fabled titty bar in the middle of nowhere. What they find are rednecks who go on a seasonal hunt for young men to trap, release, hunt, rape, and kill. But the bearded Duck Dynasty rejects aren’t the only threat in the woods. There seems to be a group of primal Neanderthal Norsemen running around massacring folks along the coast--and maybe there’s an even bigger threat out there as well. With so many monsters on the prowl in the New Hampshire woods, odds are many of our budding adults will not be making it back from this mancation alive.
Derivative? You betcha. Shades of THE TEXAS CHAIN SAW MASSACRE are prevalent in the way the rednecks round up and track down the four teens. There’s also an opening blurb very reminiscent of the intro John Larroquette read in TCM. There is a heavy heaping of DELIVERANCE here as well, as the rednecks have rape on their mind as the end result of their big yearly hunt, and shades of Jack Ketchum’s OFFSPRING and the Ketchum/Lucky McKee collaboration THE WOMAN are prevalent involving the nomadic cave people living in the forests outside of society. Other films like SURVIVING THE GAME and other variations of THE MOST DANGEROUS GAME will pop into some folks’ minds while watching this film. It certainly happened to me. But writer/director Flood Reed binds this whole thing together really well by giving all of the “teams” equal screen time, and while some of the creative naming of characters may be a little too cute (all of the guys are named Bro, Buddy, Dude-guy, Kid, and Bro, while the kidnapped woman is named Stockholm), it also shows that Reed is putting a lot of intention into the entirety of the script and not just going for the big effects gore scene or bloody kills that most films of this kind are after. Thematically, this film is rich as well. Early on, Dayo's character Bro has a discussion with his buddies about how many societies function and thrive outside of the realm of man, equating it to tribes in Africa as well as today’s impoverished minorities, who are seemingly cut off from most of world and adapt in ways that are sometimes looked at as barbaric compared to high society’s standards. Isolationism and evolution is also delved into not only with the nomadic cavemen but the rednecks as well, as one of them suffers from depression after coming back from the war, isolating himself from his friends and family. Bro is also isolated from the rest of the group, as he is the only African American as well as the only one who is going to an Ivy League college. Seeing this film deal with this theme in such a vivid, textured, and multifaceted manner is something you don’t often find in horror films and is much appreciated by this reviewer. It makes all of the blood and gore that more impactful when there’s some meaning behind it all.
And man, is this film gory. The cannibalistic cavemen are brutal in their killings, tearing apart their victims in the most barbaric of ways with their bare hands. This film doesn’t turn a blind eye to the red stuff, and while oftentimes it’s heady in theme, the whole thing is evened out as Reed isn’t afraid to toss in some ghoulish gore to drive his point home.
This is not a perfect film. Oftentimes Reed relied on editing some shocking half-second scenes of violence in some scenes in order to punctuate a point or just shock the viewer. This is something that filmmakers like Oliver Stone have done pretty well, most notably in NATURAL BORN KILLERS (which is sort of paid homage to in this film in one particular scene in a car with an obvious greenscreen), but Reed uses this a little too often for my tastes here. And while this is a shocking film, I don’t think it needs the scattershot fast cuts to make it more so. The editing of this film, which was also done by Reed, seems to be something that the filmmaker seems to need the most work on as the story is tight, the film looked great, and his acting is pretty great as well.
That said, AMERICAN BACKWOODS: SLEW HAMPSHIRE was an intense and gory little surprise of a horror film. It serves as a hodgepodge of many of horror’s greatest and most effective films while still retaining a uniqueness about it. Some scenes, like a late in the game rape scene involving some picked berries and a broken leg, are almost too intense to take. This movie just keeps topping itself in brutality and shocks all the way until the end, which leaves things wide open for a sequel. While the name of the film may be a little goofy (and this film does have a rather wicked sense of humor), it definitely is one of the more intense low budgeters I’ve witnessed in a while. Highly recommended for those with a strong stomach and an appreciation for thematic heft.
And finally…from the makers of BLOOD CAR, here’s a short film involving a quiet drive in the countryside and a mime. It’s offbeat humor that’s not for everyone, but I love the patient humor and the way it is parsed out here. So take a not-so-pleasant country drive with Mike Brune’s THE ADVENTURE!
See ya next week, folks!
Ambush Bug is Mark L. Miller, original @$$Hole/wordslinger/writer of wrongs/reviewer/interviewer/editor of AICN COMICS for over 13 years & AICN HORROR for 4. Follow Ambush Bug on the Twitters @Mark_L_Miller.
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